Unbathed, sick, bruised — family says Texas nursing home neglected mom to death

Vicky Brown died from sepsis after neglect at Cross Country assisted living facility in Brownwood, a lawsuit from the family says. This photo of Brown was taken a year before she died.
Vicky Brown died from sepsis after neglect at Cross Country assisted living facility in Brownwood, a lawsuit from the family says. This photo of Brown was taken a year before she died. Shelly Cameron

A nursing home in Brownwood was cited for neglect by the state, and a family says their mother died at the facility’s hands.

Vicky Brown’s daughter, Shelly Cameron, and Brown’s son, John Weldon, are suing Cross Country Healthcare Center for what they say was neglect of their mother.

Cameron said she originally did not want to sue anybody, but felt a responsibility to make sure no one else is treated the way her mother was.

“After seeing what happened to her, we didn’t have a choice,” Cameron said. “You just can’t let this go, it’s going to happen to somebody else. It’s going to happen to somebody else’s mom.”

Cross Country Healthcare is owned by Senior Living LLC, which operates 31 assisted living centers in Texas, according to its website. Richard Agnew, general counsel for Cross Country’s operator, said the company cannot comment on pending litigation.

In January 2017, Brown, 70, was found unresponsive at Cross Country Healthcare Center. She had been doing well health-wise until about a week before when she came down with the flu, Cameron said. Within six days, her condition worsened to the point she needed to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

When she arrived at the hospital, Brown was unbathed, dirty and dressed only in a T-shirt and briefs, Brown’s family said in a lawsuit filed Dec. 3 in Tarrant County.

Her eyes were matted closed and her eyelashes were so crusted, she could not open her eyes, the suit says. Her lips were dry and cracked and covered in dried blood and her lower lip was swollen. Scattered bruises covered her upper and lower body, it says.

“The nurse in charge was horrified,” Cameron said. “The catheter looked like it had coffee grounds in it, that’s how black it was. She had huge bed sores. This all happened in a six day period. Her tongue was bloody. We had never seen her that way. We were scared to death.”

Brown’s dentures were removed and covered with a brown growth. She had a large ulcer spreading near her pelvis, another on her right leg and one on each foot.

Cameron said from how cracked her mother’s tongue was, it seemed she had not been given liquid for 24 to 48 hours.

Before the January hospital visit, Cameron said, her mother did not have significant health problems. She had been placed in assisted living due to mental and cognitive problems but was still mobile and very active.

However, after being at Cross Country in Brownwood, Cameron said, her mother never recovered.

Brown was ultimately diagnosed with sepsis, a urinary tract infection and multiple ulcers. She was treated with antibiotics, but she died three months after arriving at the hospital, in March 2017.

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Cameron said if her mother had been in Cross Country in Brownwood, she would still be alive today.

“The bigger issue here is that overall, there are not standards in that particular nursing home,” Cameron said. “Overall, I think there are a few folks within all nursing homes who have the heart for folks like that. But what are we doing to hold people acceptable?”

State investigation

Brown’s physicians called the state to report that Brown had been neglected by the assisted living facility in west central Texas.

The Department of Aging conducted an investigation of the facility in February 2017 and concluded that conditions there placed residents in immediate jeopardy.

Among other things, the agency found that it failed to prevent residents from developing ulcers. Pressure ulcers form when a patient does not move often enough and the skin becomes worn down. The wound can blister, split open and, if left untreated, cause infection and severe tissue loss.

Three residents in the Cross Country facility had developed severe ulcers, according to the inspection report. One resident had developed seven ulcers while in the facility, including three stage four ulcers. In stage four ulcers, the skin has deteriorated to the point that a crater is formed in the skin so deep it reaches the bone.

Another resident developed six ulcers. The patient was taken to the hospital and physicians reported she was emaciated and dehydrated.

The inspection report also found the facility failed to keep patients from developing urinary tract infections by not changing their catheters enough.

Based on the inspection, the facility was issued 11 violations by the Department of Aging and told to create a corrective plan for each violation.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Cross Country in Brownwood has the lowest possible rating in quality of care, scoring a 1 out of 5.

In 2017, the facility was issued 16 federal citations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. In August 2018, it received three more.

In 2011, the facility in Brownwood settled a case against an employee, who said she fractured her arm while working at the facility. Employee Celia Perez said in the suit that the facility did not provide a resident who had trouble walking with a wheelchair and the resident fell on her while she was helping her walk.

Kaley Johnson is a breaking news and enterprise reporter. She majored in investigative reporting at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has a passion for bringing readers in-depth, complex stories that will impact their lives. Send your tips via email or Twitter.